Four-week shutdown 'definitely needed' in Ottawa: What you need to know about the new rules

Ottawa's top doctor says the four-week shutdown is "definitely needed" in the capital to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and she hopes this is the last shutdown during the pandemic.

"This is different this time because we have the vaccination program that's started," said Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health.

"What's already happened is we have people in long-term care homes and retirement homes that are well protected and that protection is extending into the community."

Ontario is pulling its "emergency brake" in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 variants. Premier Doug Ford said the four-week shutdown in all 34 public health regions will begin at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

"What I know in Ottawa it that we have more COVID in our community than we've ever had, when we look at the level in the wastewater that is concerning. The number of people testing positive, the number of people showing up at our testing centres," said Dr. Etches during a media conference Thursday afternoon.

"It's clear that it's putting pressure, although it's younger people who aren't at risk of dying, there is still pressure on the health system and this is just the beginning as we look ahead. If measures weren't put in like this, it would cause more strain that we couldnt handle."

Under the guidelines, indoor and outdoor dining at bars and restaurants is prohibited, and personal care settings and gyms must close. Essential retail stores will be able to operate with a 50 per cent capacity limit, while other retail businesses, including big box stores and stores in malls, can operate at 25 per cent capacity.

THIS MIGHT NOT BE PLEASANT, BUT PLEASE READ IT ANYWAY

Today we expect the Province to announce further protective measures in response to the levels of COVID in Ottawa.

We know this may not be welcome news for everyone, but it is necessary.

Let's discuss, in 13 tweets. (1/13)

— Ottawa Public Health (@OttawaHealth) April 1, 2021

CTVNewsOttawa.ca asked Dr. Etches if this could be the final shutdown needed as the COVID-19 vaccination program rolls out.

"This is my hope that we would have enough control brought to turn the curve again, to bring COVID levels lower that we would not need to do this again as we then protect our population with vaccination.  So we're moving quickly through the age groups," said Etches.

Ottawa Public Health reports 84 per cent of Ottawa residents over 90 are protected, while 76 per cent of residents in their 80s have received the shot.

"Once we get these populations protected, that does make a difference in terms of who is at risk of showing up in emergencies and hospital," said Dr. Etches. 

A total of 146,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Ottawa. 

Social gatherings indoors are prohibited during the four-week shutdown. Outside gatherings are capped at five people, as long as physical distancing can be maintained.

ENFORCING COVID-19 MEASURES

"This belongs to each and every one of us to understand what we're facing collectively as a community and have the proper behaviours that we should have to fight this, all the public health measures that we should take," said Anthony Di Monte, Ottawa's general manager of emergency and protective services.

"Bylaw will, like we did in the past, continue to enforce when we see egregious or situations where people aren't doing that for our collective good to intervene."

Di Monte says Ottawa Bylaw and Regulatory Services has been speaking with Ontario government officials to understand the new rules during the four-week shutdown.

"We will be out there with our Bylaw team enforcing the provincial regulations."

"WE'RE ALL TIRED," MAYOR SAYS

Mayor Jim Watson says based on the COVID-19 numbers, he supports the province's decision to impose a shutdown on Ottawa.

The mayor says it's now up to everyone to help reduce transmission.

"This city is exhausted. The nurses, the personal support workers, the paramedics, the caregivers, parents – we're all really exhausted," said Watson Thursday afternoon.

"We're all tired and we want this to be over with. But we have to call on the best instincts of our fellow citizens to start and to continue following the advice of our medical professionals. There's not a Plan B in terms of beating the coronavirus. It's pretty simple: it's washing your hands, it's physical distancing, it's staying within your own household and it's wearing a mask, and then it's going and getting a vaccine," said Watson.

"If all of those things are followed, we will be out of this nightmare that we've been living through for 12 months quicker and get back to some sense of normalcy and enjoyment in our lives."

COVID-19 SHUTDOWN

A look at the measures in effect in Ottawa and across Ontario:

  • No indoor organized public events and social gatherings
  • Capacity for outdoor organized public events and social gatherings limited to five-people maximum, except for gatherings with members of the same household
  • Indoor and outdoor dining at bars and restaurants prohibited. Restaurants, bars and other food or drink establishments will be permitted to operate by takeout, drive-thru and delivery only
  • Restricting in-person shopping in all retail settings: 50 per cent capacity limit for supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers' market, other stores that primarily sell food and pharmacies
  • Restricting in-person shopping to 25 per cent for all other retail including big box stores, along with other public health and workplace safety measures
  • Prohibiting personal care services
  • Prohibiting the use of facilities for indoor or outdoor sports and recreational fitness (e.g., gyms)
  • Requiring day camps to close
  • Limiting capacity at weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites or ceremonies to 15 per cent occupancy per room indoors, and to the number of individuals that can maintain two metres of physical distancing outdoors

SHOPPING MALLS

  • Maximum capacity 25 per cent per store
  • Inside dining spaces closed (includes food courts)
  • Music must be low enough for normal conversation to be possible
  • Indoor shopping malls must actively screen patrons in accordance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health before they enter

BUSINESSES NOT PERMITTED TO OPEN

  • Amusement parks, water parks
  • Bathhouses and sex clubs
  • Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments
  • Concert venues, theatres and cinemas (includes drive in or drive through events)
  • Horse racing (open for training only, no races or spectators)
  • Motorsports
  • Museums and cultural amenities
  • Personal care services
  • Tour and guide services
  • Zoos and aquariums (permitted to operate for the care of animals)